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Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Great Hugo Dust-Up & Why I'm Coming In On The Sad Puppies Side

This may be a short post or a long one. I don't quite yet know how it's going to go even in my own mind.

 Of late there's been quite the dust-up in sf/f regarding the Hugo Award, science fiction and fantasy's "most prestigious award" due to the activities of certain groups of people on both sides of the issue. I'm coming down on the side of one group due to the activities and accusations of the other as I will explain in a little bit. A little background first, however...

First off, I'm nobody. Virtually nobody reads this blog and I don't post here very often. I created this page quite awhile back and, thus far, over the course of more than 5 years, it's gotten just north of 5 thousand page views. Most of my posts have been game- or gaming-related, primarily in regard to my science fiction play-by-email (pbem) game Fire On The Suns ( So, no, I am in no way affiliated with or even know anybody related to whatever the hell the kerfuffle about "GamerGate" was or exactly what it was all about. I write a story here, a story there, and have written 2 novels to-date. I've got over half a million words written in connection with the FOTS Universe, however, and work as a technical writer as my day job. I've been writing and self-publishing (back in my day we used to call it desktop publishing) for over 30 years, primarily in the nonfiction field.

For most of my reading life (I was reading at a college level by the time I was in the 3rd grade) I've been a fan of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. I grew up reading HP Lovecraft, August Derleth, Richard Matheson, Robert Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Lin Carter, Lester del Ray, A. E van Vogt, Fred Saberhagen, Ted Sturgeon, and a thousand others. I've read Dune. I've read the Foundation trilogy. I've read 2001: A Space Odyssey. I've read The Martian Chronicles and Starship Troopers and At The Mountains Of Madness and Something Wicked This Way Comes and Berserkers and Honor Harrington and Under A Graveyard Sky and Monster Hunters and a thousand other books and probably ten thousand other short stories by too many authors to keep track of over the years. My ebook library numbers well over a thousand ebooks and short stories. So, I consider myself fairly well-read in the sf/f and even the horror genres. For this post we're going to leave horror out of things as they get their own award (the Stoker) and it's not (yet_ part of any controversy that I know of.

 So, of course, I've known about the various awards, primarily the Nebula and the Hugo for a very long time.

What I did not know about, until very recently, was the fact I could, for a very low cost, participate in nominating works for the Hugo.

 I'd always thought of the Hugo as an award given to sf/f authors by other sf/f authors and, while I write a little bit here and there, now and then, I'm just a hack writer who makes his living at non-fiction. My opinions and what I enjoyed reading for entertainment didn't count. Oh, sure, even as a hack, I could dream, but my stuff is mostly dark and a sf/f/horror blend so I knew there was absolutely no chance I'd ever get a Hugo. There is still no chance I'll ever get one and, frankly, I don't care. I'll continue to write my stuff and hope it sells enough copies for beer money now and then (and sometimes it actually does).

But, about 2 or 3 years ago a guy who's a pretty good sf/f author and makes a good living at it started to notice something odd about the way the Hugo was being awarded, something I have to admit in hindsight I'd noticed many years ago - the nominees and finalists were crap.

Pretty much none of the commercially successful authors, the really entertaining folks who wrote great stories and could make a living at it, were being nominated and, even if they were, they weren't the ones getting "the most prestigious award in sf/f". Nope. Instead, what we were getting was a steaming pile of books with overt, or not so overt, "message-tripe". The great works of yesterday, the great stories that made people want to run out and buy the anthology published every year containing all the short story and novella finalists (the novels are/were, I believe published stand-alone) for the Hugo award, just weren't there anymore.

Instead of great stories and novellas, great novels, we were getting stories about alien sexual mores, about bestiality with dinosaurs, about transhumanism, about gender reidentification, about a time when human gender transcended our biological and social barriers and, instead of being sidelined, were trumpeted and encouraged. We weren't getting stories about exploration, adventure, about "going where no one had gone before", we were getting stories about how the human condition was or ought to be according to what the authors seemed to believe. And these authors were already pissing all over any protest regarding questions about where the great stories, where the commercially successful authors, where the entertainment was.

So, this guy, his name was Larry Correia and he's a pretty good storyteller in his own right, decided to do something about it and started the Sad Puppies.

Last year another guy who just happens to write some good stuff of his own (The Chaplain's War) took over for Larry and ran Sad Puppies 3 and this time they managed to get a bunch of great authors who wrote good, entertaining stuff without the "message" slapped all over it or stuffed so deep inside it you couldn't figure out where the story started and the message ended) on the slate of nominees for the Hugo award.

Now, being a kind of overall moderate conservative human being and considering myself reasonably civilized, I'd seen some of the SP argument and the counter-argument coming out on FaceBook (I don't do Twitter or other social networking stuff, just FB and old timey email), I'd tried to pretty much stay out of the fray by reading stuff from both sides of the aisle.

And, let me be especially clear here - there is a clear dividing line between SP and those who oppose them and, to me, it is almost exactly like the lines down between the aisle of any political party. Now, I'm not going to say that either party involved is especially politically-oriented and that's not the point anyway. The point is the analogy between alignments of any type and political parties. When the lines are drawn all those lines start to look a lot alike - like any line drawn in the sand anywhere in the world.

So, being the ignoramus that I am, I started asking questions of both sides and I found myself starting to take a stand. And that's when the fecal matter started hitting the proverbial spinning turbine blades.

The more questions I asked, the more answers, but especially questions I started getting in return. Was I this? Was I that? Where did I stand on this issue or that issue? This was especially frequent from the side opposing the Sad Puppies. I was asking the questions I was asking in an effort to more carefully form my own attitudes and opinions regarding both sides. Now, as a moderate conservative, something I have not always been I freely admit (I've been accused in the past of being to the right of the Tea Party for certain issues), and believing that an informed opinion is always the way to form said opinion, I'm used to being questioned regarding my motivations. This usually comes from the other side which is naturally defensive and protective of their turf most of the time. But I've managed to have rational conversations with, as a Republican, Democrats such as Helen Tauscher and, while we'd never be "friends" we also agreed that we'd never truly be enemies either. My goal has always been to find a basis for having a rational opinion in an argument and to be able to back up that opinion with fact.

Rarely have I ever run into people who were purposely obtuse and inflammatory in defense of their argument. Rarely, in a discussion, have I ever been called names or been slurred. Nobody who knows me would call me a "white supremacist".

However, after the Hugo nominations this last Saturday, there were 3 different people on 3 different occasions who did exactly that. Why? Because I was starting to come down on the side of the Sad Puppies whose campaign to insert their own slate of nominees onto the Hugo ballot I found to be wonderfully inclusive.

They brought in new fans, informed fans, who plunked down their money for a WorldCon membership ($40) and they'd voted, I felt, their consciences and poured money into WorldCon's coffers. Despite quite vitriolic resistance in many cases, perhaps most, by the other side, the Sad Puppies had managed to get a record number of votes for the nominations for the final Hugo award ballot.

I asked if this was not a clear indication of inclusiveness and was gored for it. Because, the 3 individuals whom I was having the discussion with at the time said, of association. If I associated with, in any fashion, Brad Torgerson, or Larry Correia, I was also associating with a gentleman by the name of Vox Day, whom I've never met and whose work I've never read, but whom they said is a rabid "white supremacist".

I asked if they thought that, because I might innocently associate with felons, people who had once been in prison or might currently be, if that made me a felon as well. You can guess their answer, I'm sure.

So, I'm guilty by association.

Yes, I've known people who are felons. I currently know a guy, who I haven't spoken with in 20 years, who's in prison. That makes me a felon, right?

I know Brad Torgerson and Larry Correia. I've even bought their works - paid good money I earned at my day job to do so. But because this guy whom I don't even know called Vox Day is loosely associated with them (and from what I hear it is very loosely) and because he holds what some might call "extreme" opinions which makes him a white supremacist, then I'm a white supremacist too, right?

So, I called "Bullshit!" on these folks. I call bullshit on this entire attitude of guilt by association. This really, truly pisses me off and, when I'm pissed off, I get vulgar so pardon my language. If not, fuck off.

Nobody calls me names. Nobody tells me I am something I clearly am not. That's the easiest way to drive me into the other fellow's camp whether or not I agree with them 100%.

The fact is, I think SP3 is a breath of much-needed fresh air and the antics of the other side have done little except to upset their own apple cart and diminish their argument to complete and utter nonsense.

As I've said elsewhere, I believe the other side has had their way for so long and so often they literally cannot conceive of anyone associated with Sad Puppies as being anything other than evil serfs out to tear down their kingdom and throw shit on their King's Road (ie the Hugo). Their leftist viewpoint is that any work they do not approve of is less than worthless. Their leftist viewpoint is that one is guilty by mere association with anyone they disapprove of.

That's not what the Hugo is all about. The Hugo is the fan's award to their favorite authors. It is supposed to be sf/f's "most prestigious award". Instead, it's become, in the hands of a select clique of individuals, a bitter joke, a fool's goal, and an utterly unappreciated award in the minds of several authors. At least one author I read recently was of the opinion that the only way they would accept the Hugo was "to wipe my ass with it".

That's how low "the most prestigious award" has become in the hands of this clique. That's why they protest so vehemently against the Sad Puppies that they have to print lies and libel against the Sad Puppies. That's why, as a fan of sf/f for more than 40 years, I feel I have to come down on the Sad Puppies side and assist them in toppling this group from their stranglehold on "the most prestigious award" and take it back for the fans.

 People could have been reasonable. They could have said, "Okay, that's the way the rules work and you guys won fair and square." They could have fussed and fumed about it. They could have been dignified and reasoned about their disagreement. They did not have to libel Sad Puppy's organizers in Entertainment Weekly this weekend. They didn's have to issue death threats against the organization's founder. They didn't have to call me a white supremacist. They could have been reasonable and dignified about the loss of 75% of their slate and welcomed fans back to the fold of WorldCon and the Hugo ballot.

But they could not do this because they are not reasonable people. They see the "other" as irredeemably evil, fit only to be stood against the wall and shot or forced into a re-education camp to be taught the error of our ways. You see, they are not reasonable people. And this kind of person cannot be reasoned with. They can only be fought with every reasonable method at a civilized person's disposal. And so, I am with the Sad Puppies and will be going forth and buying a Sasquan non-attendee (supporting) membership ($40) and voting on the final ballot for the Hugo.

For the Hugo.

And for the fans.


Kent Schmidt said...

Well said, sir! I have long read fiction for enjoyment. I do not gauge whether I will like a book based upon the sex, race, sexual preference, or political leanings of the author. I like authors as diverse as Steven Barnes, Andre Norton, David Gerrold, Larry Correia, David Weber, Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny and Harlan Elison. I didn't know until well after I enjoyed his work, that Barnes was an "author of color" or that Gerrold was gay, or that Andre Norton or C J Cherryh were women. This is the reason I am so offended by some of the SJWs insistence on "reading books by the right-thinkink authors" and excluding valid works from "wrong-thinking" authors. I am an old, hetero, white, male, and therefore cannot see past my "privilege" enough to be "socially correct" enough to enjoy the right authors. Or something. I read for enjoyment. Of two works, equally entertaining, I tend to enjoy the one that DOES have a "message." But the story must be entertaining first. I guess that makes me a troglodyte or something...

steve poling said...

Well said. When one considers who has and who has NOT won a Hugo, the scope of the problem becomes apparent. When you hear one side or the other side demand a loyalty oath and force you to take sides, that's a good reason to take the other side. This is cultural Stalinism perpetrated by those who know they are "Good People" who define evil as anyone who disagrees with them.

Francis Turner said...

As I wrote elsewhere on this topic:

Readers might like to consider the history of the Hugo awards over the last decade or so.

The Hugo award was sinking into irrelevancy long before Sad Puppies were even a twinke in Larry Correia’s eye. A decade ago you could get a major Hugo award (e.g. best novel) with perhaps 50 or 60 people nominating you and then 200-300 votes (out of a total of about 500) voting for you. Given the preference system you’d need maybe 150 first pref votes and then pick up enough 2nd/3rd preferences to beat off your competition.

[At the time (2007 ish) I pointed out that if someone really wanted to buy a Hugo it would cost at most $10,000 and probably a lot less – in fact I recall other people working out that you could probably do it for half that amount. ]

So that was the state of play in the 2000s. The Hugos were awards supposedly given by the readership that were voted on by fewer than 500 people – for books that sell thousands (tens of thousands in some cases). This was not really a popular award, it was an award handed out by a tiny minority who claimed to speak for the larger readership. If the small minority did speak for the larger readership (or even a significant fraction of it) then there wouldn’t be much argument, but Larry’s hypothesis was that in fact the Hugo voters were in fact quite out of step with the readership. The Sad Puppies campaigns have been waged to try and get more people to nominate and vote and, in the process, vote for works that are actually popular as opposed to being favored by an unrepresentative minority. There seems to be considerable evidence that this is the case. I don’t know how many Puppies (whether Rabid or Sad) nominated works this year but it looks like there was an order of magnitude more nominations than a decade ago and I strongly suspect based on last year that voting numbers will be such that the winner will need to get close to 2000 votes instead of 250.

Any rational person would see that as a positive outcome not a negative one

Anonymous said...

Like you, I didn't realize readers could vote for the Hugos. When I learned this, I was excited to be a part of supporting my favorite books and authors. And then, this whole nastiness began. Like you, I read both sides to figure out what was going on. I was disappointed that the old Hugo crowd actively disliked the new members--stating that we didn't love science fiction and that we were the wrong kinds of fans. That kind of elitist, exclusive attitude is diametrically opposed to the true nature of science fiction which should be respectful and inclusive.

I'm nobody, too, but that shouldn't mean my vote counts less for an award that is supposed to be of the people.

fotsgreg said...

Thanks for the comments and the support. It's gratifying to know there are real, rational people out there in the sf/f community. As I said, an author's ethnic background, religion, sexual preference, etc., simply do not matter to me if they tell a good story. I've heard the praises of certain individuals sung to the heavens by those opposed to the Sad Puppies, but have yet to discover what they see in some of those writers except their color, religion (or lack thereof), or sexual persuasion.